Last Friday, Parliament Speaker Anthony Rota described 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a “Ukrainian hero” in the Canadian Parliament. However, according to the Canadian Foundation Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish human rights organization, Honka served in World War II as a member of the 14th SS Waffen Grenadier Division. The Foundation then requested an apology from the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
In a statement, Rota takes full responsibility for what he described as a “mistake.” He said that no one, including his parliamentary colleagues or the Ukrainian delegation, knew about his plans in advance. “I have now received more information, which makes me regret my decision,” he said, offering his “deepest apologies” to the Jewish communities.
The veteran’s recognition came after a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who thanked Canada for its assistance during the Russian invasion of his country. After Zelensky’s speech, Ruta Honka, who was present in the stands, received high praise for his fight for Ukraine’s independence against the Russians. Honka received a standing ovation from those in attendance, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“At a time of increasing anti-Semitism and distortion of the Holocaust, it is deeply disturbing to see the Parliament of Canada standing up to applaud an individual who was a member of a unit of the Waffen-SS, the Nazi military branch responsible for the Holocaust.” The organization said in a statement: “Mass killing of many innocent civilians.”
“We demand an explanation as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of the Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation.” Honka could not be reached for comment.
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